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Black Friday Now Starts on Thanksgiving Day. So What?

Stores keep moving their big sales earlier and earlier, but the consumer gets to decide if that's a good idea.

Mega sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving have been around for decades. There is, in fact, a whole website devoted to Black Friday that explains the concept:

"The term 'Black Friday' was coined in the 1960s to mark the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. 'Black' refers to stores moving from the 'red' to the 'black,' back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit."

Years ago, retailers started opening their stores earlier and earlier on Black Friday, and millions of Americans took the bait, getting up in the bleary pre-dawn hours to stand in long lines, shivering in the cold.

Some even camped overnight. They did it because they could sometimes save a few hundred dollars on a big purchase like a television or a computer or a game system.

In the last few years, some retailers pushed their openings to midnight so that it wasn't about getting up early, but about fighting the effects of the Tryptophan in the turkey to stay up late on Thanksgiving night.

This year, Walmart and Sears — and likely others — will be offering deals starting at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

The criticism is easy to anticipate: Families should be spending Thanksgiving together instead of worrying about getting to stores for a deal, and retailers shouldn't be forcing their employees to work on a holiday that used to be sacrosanct. It's also a class issue: The rich won't be queuing up for the $180 40-inch high-definition television, while those who live paycheck to paycheck might not be able to pass up the chance.

But there's another side to it. H.W. Brands, a professor and author who wrote American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900, spoke in a recent radio interview about the differences between democracy and capitalism. If we believe in both, he said, we have to accept that they sometimes clash.

Democracy, Brands said, works on the presumption that everyone is equal. Each citizen's vote, theoretically at least, carries the same weight. But capitalism thrives on competition. It rewards — sometimes disproportionately — those who figure out how to get the consumer's dollars in their pocket instead of the other guy's. So if retailers feel the need to pay employees to work on Thanksgiving Day and offer heavy discounts on merchandise, we can assume it's because they think they'll make some extra money that way — even at the expense of aggravating the public.

All the power isn't with the stores, though. Consumers can decide whether or not they want to support a move that seems to lead inevitably to mega sales that coincide with the Macy's Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning. If you don't think Walmart should be opening on Thanksgiving night, don't shop there.

A recent Wall Street Journal article said Black Friday deals are often more myth than reality anyway. "It turns out that gifts from Barbie dolls to watches to blenders are often priced below Black Friday levels at various times throughout the year, even during the holiday season, and their prices follow different trajectories as the remaining shopping days tick down," according to the Journal. Sometimes retailers even build up prices in the months leading up to the holidays, just so they can knock them down, the Journal said.

Here's another angle to consider: Some consumers may be more than ready to get out of the house on Thanksgiving night. Not everyone has an idyllic setting in which to spend Thanksgiving, and it tends to be a big night at movie theaters for those who don't like football, so shopping might be another alternative. With the early openings, some consumers will get their "bargains" without losing out on a night's sleep.

But if you don't want to spend Thanksgiving Day in a line at Best Buy waiting for their midnight opening, don't do it. If enough consumers stay away, the stores will stop the Thanksgiving Day creep. That's how capitalism works.

Larry Lynch November 17, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I have gone and stood in line several times for the "black Friday" sales of various stores since they first started having them years ago and only had success once in acquiring the item I was looking for. The times I went, I was always among the first dozen "in the door", but I found that if you dont have "Inside Info" on where the items are going to be in the store, you wont get them, they will be gone before you find them. The one time I was successful I had found a MAP of the store on-line showing where the item I was looking for would be, and how manyh they would have.. I was the 10th person in the door and the first person into the checkout line... Since that time (early on in the black Friday history) I have noticed that the most successful shoppers are getting fed "inside info" on their cell phones before the store opens, while waiting in line outside the store. At 66, I just dont have the time or inclination any longer to fight the system.. I just wait for the after Christmas sales, and pay what they are asking. (not usually much more than the black Friday price, and usually for a higher quality item). Overall
Paula Jackson November 17, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Sad that we give thanks for what we have the day before we race to the store to buy more things...and sad that the store employees cannot fully enjoy their day of Thanks because they must work...
Dana Parfitt November 17, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I have been a Black Friday shopper for years and have been very successful in getting some major deals. I love the cheeriness of the other shoppers and how it officially kicks off the holiday shopping season. I am always grateful to the store employees who are there to wait on me and give their best to the 1000s out there shopping. But this year I am saying NO to Walmart and other stores that open on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is a holiday that we need now more than ever and everyone just wants to pass it by and forget what it really stands for. We have become a society of ungrateful brats always seeking instant gratification and a free ride. The entitlement attitutes and greed of our country has lead us into economic downfall and mountains of debt. We need to learn to be a thankful nation and community. Not just thankful for the big stuff but for everything we have. Someone has paid a price along the line for us to have all we do. If we totally wash away Thanksgiving then what do we teach our children and generations to come? How will they learn to appreciate what they have both individually and as a country if we don't celebrate with a day of thanks. On Thanksgiving, stay home and be thankful. We all have something to be thankful for no matter how big or small. Enjoy a real American holiday ...Thanksgiving!
Dana Parfitt November 17, 2012 at 02:39 PM
And don't forget to support our local businesses on Small Business Saturday - November 24. This is a day for shopping at locally owned businesses and making a real impact on the local economy. Groton and Mysic have a ton of great stores on Thames Street, Long Hill Road, Poquonnock Road, and downtown Mystic. These businesses have the best customer service, pay local taxes, and provide local jobs. They deserve our sales and the rewards are big for all of us. Happy Shopping on Saturday.
Karen Royce November 17, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I am in 100% agreement with Dana, there will be no leaving my house at 8pm on Thanksgiving to go to Wal-mart to buy a 1.48$ cotton bath towel. By all means get up early at 5am to go stand in line in the cold, but no-one needs to be working or shopping on the one day that we are suppossed to be enjoying our family, friends and the bounty that is on our table from all the HARD WORK we have done the previous season. Thanksgiving is not a coporate holiday, like grandparents day, invented to sell more cards or boxes of candy. This was a celebration by the original founding fathers to remember our blessings and the people who helped us survive that year. Sam Walton would be rolling over in his grave if he knew his company was becoming this greedy. Stay home on Thursday, have some turkey, watch football, argue over who washes and who dries the "good china", figure out the holiday schedule of which Gramma gets the family on Christmas day...but stay there and leave the shopping till Friday...
Kristin FunSize Grimm McPherson November 17, 2012 at 04:36 PM
PEOPLE BOYCOTT SHOPPING ON THURSDAY!!!!!!! This is crazy. I love to go out on black Friday but now its Thursday... enough is enough!!!!!!!! Let people stay home and enjoy time with thier familys!!!!!!!!!
Sandy D'Esopo November 17, 2012 at 09:09 PM
It's too bad that our culture has become so addicted to "things" that a phony holiday like Black Friday, solely about stuff, even exists. Don't get me wrong, I love holidays, seldom buy anything for list price, and have no problem with aimless, silly fun. I'm no ascetic. But over the years I've come to see that I'm owned as much by my possessions as I own them. I've also come to enjoy getting rid of stuff as acquiring it. Of course, holiday shopping is about gift-buying, something different than amassing stuff for oneself, but a hand-made gift, even something special to eat, is often appreciated as much or more than something bought. My wife and I given hot pecans, homemade ketchup, and pickles. They always made a big hit.
CA November 18, 2012 at 01:28 PM
I am very disgusted with stores that are making their employees work on Thursdays. It shows that they do not support holidays in the US. I had stopped shopping on Black Friday along time ago since I found better deals in Dec at decent times when stores are open. Christmas has become to commerialized and kids don't know the true meaning of giving from their hearts. As adults, we are just showing them how material things are more important than the actual time that we spend with them. Let's not shop, but spend time doing family things with our kids. Playing games and taking hikes and giving thanks to those around us.
Sandy D'Esopo November 18, 2012 at 06:44 PM
CA: I'm sure it's not always the case, but working on holidays isn't always a bad thing for employees. Most employers want to keep their valuable help as happy as possible, so they do their best to be accommodating. For instance, they will ask single and younger workers before asking someone who has a dinner to put on for a huge family. Also, workers on Sundays and official holidays must by law be paid time and 1/2, or in some cases regular time PLUS time and 1/2. Many workers jump at this chance to make such good money. Yes, some bosses couldn't care less for their underlings, but most are at least halfway decent, if only because fairness is good business.
Sheryl November 19, 2012 at 04:12 PM
As a worker in retail I thank those of you who won't shop on Thanksgiving Day, maybe eventually the stores won't be open on Thanksgiving Day so that we don't have to rush our dinner, IF we can have one, to get to work so someone can buy a cheap TV or computer that will be on sale again at the same price, or lower, before Christmas. And to Sandy, not everyone gets time and a half for working holidays even though they are mandatory ...
Realistic November 20, 2012 at 05:16 AM
You know certain industries are just known for not having the holidays off the same as most of us and thats just the way it is. I dont hear anyone sticking up for gas station or grocery store employees and there are lots of them who work on thanksgiving, christmas, and every other holiday.
Sandy D'Esopo November 20, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Sheryl, If you or anyone you know is not getting time & 1/2 for working an legal holiday, contact the State Department of Labor. I'm pretty sure you don't have to give your name, and CT Labor will make the employer come up with the money. If not, then it's time to change the law.
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